Winter: A Solstice Story (The Solstice Series) (Hardcover)
This coming Thursday, the winter solstice occurs: the longest night of the year, but thankfully, the start of lengthening days. Looking beyond Christmas, I’ve enjoyed three new picture books to greet the season and add some new interest and fun to story time.
Winter: A Solstice Story by Kelsey E. Gross is a tale of forest animals in a dark woods, preparing to celebrate the coming gift of winter. Owl watches the waning light of the shortest day then calls, “Whooo can help me shine the light, and share a gift of hope this night?” One by one, creatures answer with sustaining gifts from the snowy land. They celebrate the first day of winter with a softly sparkling tree hung with gifts, illustrated with vertical, gate-fold artwork by Renata Liwska. An unexpected friend joins the dance and all share in the splendor.
The Snow Man: A True Story by Jonah Winter tells of the life’s work of Billy Barr, a man who has lived many years alone in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Out of boredom he began recording information about his surroundings, including snowpack levels and dates of first snowfall and when animals emerge from hibernation. As the years progressed, he was able to notice and share documentation of climate change with scientists. The wintry illustrations by Jeanette Winter show children how Billy has aged, some of the plants and animals he observed, and the stacks of journals he’s kept for more than 50 years!
My favorite of these three books is The North Wind & the Sun, written and illustrated by Caldecott Medal winner Philip Stead, who gives us a retelling of Aesop’s fable of the same name. On a cold yet sunny day, three sisters in patched coats of blue, red, and yellow leave their house for a walk. The Sun admires their handiwork, but the North Wind roars his power, laughing, “I am the great North Wind!” toppling and pounding while the sisters huddle together. Despite his damage spread far and wide, the North Wind blows himself out. Gently, the sun casts her warmth and light, renewing the land and the sisters. They shed their coats and recall the joy, but also the sadness and strife, thanking the Sun and returning home to mend their coats for the winters to come. Stead’s crayon and pencil drawings are gently colorful and the illustrations sometimes turn to portrait view, giving height to the Sun or Wind above. This one speaks to all ages and times, as most fables do.— Amy Halvorson Miller
From debut author Kelsey Gross and New York Times bestselling artist Renata Liwska comes a gentle and lulling picture book celebrating the magic of the Winter Solstice with a group of animal friends in a quiet forest.
Tonight is the longest night of the year—solstice is here! Deep in the forest, the dark, cold, and quiet of winter is all around. Owl, Mouse, and Deer all watch the light fades and dark surrounds them, but they have a gift of hope to share with their neighbors. The moon and stars shine down on a lone tree in the forest, and the animals gather around to bask in its light. Winter Solstice arrives as the winter sky brings magic for all to share.
About the Author
Kelsey E. Gross grew up in Wisconsin and lived in New Mexico and California before returning to the Midwest. She now lives in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with her partner, son, and silly, snow-loving pup. When she’s not writing, she looks for owls and other forest friends while hiking and skiing in the woods. Kelsey aims to write books that inspire readers of all ages to take care of one another and the natural world. She’s the author of the Solstice series picture books Winter and Summer. Find her online at KelseyEGross.com.
Renata Liwska grew up in Warsaw, Poland, and now lives in Calgary, Canada. She is the illustrator of The Quiet Book and The Loud Book!, both New York Times bestsellers written by Deborah Underwood, as well as Solstice series picture books Winter and Summer by Kelsey E. Gross. For The Quiet Book, Renata Liwska was awarded the 2010 Society of Illustrators Gold Medal and named a 2010 Governor General’s Award finalist.
On the longest night of the year, Owl calls on his forest friends to “shine the light” and “share a gift of hope.” Deer leaves nuts on tree branches so that all may have enough to eat. Raccoon hides berries in the snow as “sweet surprises.” As different animals explain how they can contribute (“I can help to shine the light…I can help to spark the light”), they decorate a tree, and their efforts culminate in the completed tree featured in a vertical gatefold. Liwska’s muted digital illustrations, with primarily blue backgrounds, help to set a peaceful wintry mood. MARVA ANNE HINTON
— Horn Book
A meditative story set in a snow- covered wood. The prose is careful and smooth, mirroring the peaceful illustrations as the story builds spread by spread to envelope onlookers in a winter forest, colored in cool blues, soft whites, and muted browns. Together, words and images carry readers through the woods with an owl, who meets other woodland creatures, preparing for winter. As they make their preparations, the animals create a solstice tree, where they share tender, collected moments together in the cold but cozy setting. VERDICT This beautiful book offers young readers a way into a world they may not encounter, deep in the woods, in winter
— School Library Journal
Woodland creatures celebrate light and winter on the longest night of the year.
Owl calls to friends to help him “shine the light, / and share a gift of hope this night,” the winter solstice. Deer, Squirrel, Mouse, and others have gifts to share. Duck brings feathers as “hope / for warm, cozy beds,” while Racoon places berries in the snow as “hope / for sweet surprises.” When a bear surprises the group as they celebrate around their decorated tree, they welcome their new friend. Though the final decorated tree evokes Christmas imagery, there’s no specific mention of the holiday. Simple text largely follows a pattern, explaining what “gift of hope” each animal brings. A final italicized sentence notes how each will help “spark,” “shine,” or “spread” the light. The illustrations have a soft, brushed quality that, despite the snowy setting, gives the book a comforting feel. The animals are fuzzy and feathery, almost touchable. One large, vertical image requires a tilt of the book to truly take in the decorated tree in all its splendor. Today’s readers, accustomed to producing light with the flip of a switch, may not appreciate the story’s subtext about treasuring light through long, cold winter nights; nevertheless, the charming artwork will stir them.
Warm visuals bring to life a snowy solstice. (Picture book. 3-5)
— Kirkus Reviews